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To Come Home to: Squash and Chickpea Curry with Naan

Squash with Chickpeas, Lemongrass and Coriander

There’s something about traveling that makes your own habits, culinary or otherwise, glaringly obvious. It’s only when you’re taken out of your day-to-day routine that odd quirks, individual preferences and (at times) OCD tendencies come to light.

Take my recent trip home, for instance. It was wonderful not to worry about cooking for a spell, to simply relax and enjoy the delicious meals presented by my Mum, aunts, Grandma and various waiters, and not think about the cleanup or health factor (holiday food doesn’t have calories, right?). But food prepared by others, no matter how delicious, is never done exactly the way you’d do it, is it?

So when we got home last week, I began (somewhat grudgingly) to cook my own way again. As I was sprinkling some chili flakes into a some-or-other dish with which to soothe and nourish our jet-lagged souls, Andrew came into the kitchen and paused. Your family doesn’t like spicy foods as much as we do, do they? he asked.

I stopped in mid-stir, thinking. It’s not as if I grew up eating bland, flavourless food or anything; in fact, both my parents profess to like spicy foods. But Andrew was right: there was a decided lack of spice on this most recent holiday. In fact, the only dish I recall eating that had my preferred level of heat was one that I made myself. (Yes, my mum insisted that I cook a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal for my aunt, uncle and cousins one night: cannelloni, braised cabbage, and pumpkin pie.) But if my parents’ version of spicy isn’t exactly the same as mine, it’s probably due to breadth rather than depth. I’m sure they see spice as something limited to certain kinds of foods, while in my opinion, there’s precious little that can’t be made more delicious with a pinch of dried pepper flakes or a sprinkling of chopped fresh chili.

Ironically (after all that), this dish is not actually all that spicy. It is, however, wonderfully fragrant, sweet, and absolutely perfect for this time of year. The recipe, from Nigel Slater’s new book, originally called for pumpkin, which I didn’t have any of at the time. It was tasty with my favourite squash though, so much so that I’m sure I’ll be making it again this way.

The naan is adapted from a Deborah Madison recipe I’ve used for several years, though I opt to grill these rather than baking them, as she suggests. Crispy outside and doughy inside, with a smear of melted butter and a sprinkle of sea salt, they’re the perfect accompaniment to not just this, but any curry. And they’ll take the edge off anything too-spicy, in case your tastes run opposite to mine 😉


Squash and Chickpea Curry with Lemongrass and Coriander

adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume I

serves 4

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (or use a neutral vegetable one if you prefer)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 hot red chilis, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp. crushed chili flakes)
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 200g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and simmered until tender (or use 2 x 400g cans)
  • 1 x 400g can of coconut milk
  • approx. 1 cup of stock (or water)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until soft and translucent.
  2. Meanwhile, make a rough paste of the garlic, lemongrass, and ginger, either using a food processor or a mortar and pestle. Add this to the onions, along with the coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and chili. Stir well and continue to cook over a low heat (you may need to add some water to keep the mixture from sticking).
  3. Add the squash and chickpeas, and pour in the coconut milk. Add just enough stock or water to almost cover the squash (about 1 cup), then partially cover the pan and simmer until the squash is tender to your liking. This should take 20-25 minutes; if you feel there is too much liquid, remove the lid toward the end of the cooking time and allow some of the moisture to evaporate.
  4. Remove curry from the heat and stir in the chopped coriander. Serve with naan (recipe below) and a dollop of Greek yogurt.


adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

makes 4 small naans

  • 1 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek-style)
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour (I sometimes use 1 cup plain and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp. butter (for the tops, optional)
  • sea salt (for sprinkling, optional)
  1. Put the yeast, yogurt, butter, and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour the hot water and whisk until the butter has melted and everything is mixed together.
  2. Gradually add in the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes, until smooth. The dough should be soft but not too sticky; you may need to add a bit more flour. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the grill/broiler. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and pull, stretch or roll each one into a flat, oblong shape. Arrange the naans on a nonstick baking sheet and place under the grill until the tops begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other sides until they brown, too.
  4. If you like, brush 1/4 tsp. of butter on the top of each naan as soon as they are removed from the oven. Sprinkle with some sea salt (I also like chopped fresh coriander on these) and serve with any type of curry.

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  • Rose
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Looks GREAT! I love naan! Traveling does bring out those quirks in one’s personality! It’s so funny. I always feel like I learn something new about myself & those I’m with 😉

  • Ele
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Rose- Naan is one of my favourite things ever. I never make rice to serve with curry anymore, it’s always just loads of beans/veg in it, and naan beside.

  • Dana
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I am a huge fan of spice. It seems that as I get older, my tolerance increases – I like my tongue to burn a little bit. I’m always careful when I cook for friends, but when it’s just the two of us, I make pretty spicy food. I’m so glad to know that you like that naan recipe! I’ve thought about making it so many times and just never have. I make a lot of food that would go well with that gorgeous looking bread!

  • MH
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:35 am

    YUM this looks delicious which is quite a feat since I don’t care much for Indian OR spicy food (as you know!). I want this on my table now though!!

  • Ele
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Dana- I wonder if that’s how it works, as you get older and eat more chili, your tolerance for it increases. At this rate, I’m going to be snacking on whole chilis by the time I’m an old lady 😉

    MH- YOU are one who needs to work on your tolerance. I remember cooking things for you that barely had any spice (and on one occasion, none at all), and you’d go “It’s burning my tongue”! Hee- I think it’s all in your mind. Come visit and I’ll make you some delicious, slightly spicy food.

  • Nicole
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Omg this looks wonderful. I dare not try my hand at making naan, I have the opposite of a baking gene – although maybe that’s a good challenge. I think the curry looks amazing though, and even though I don’t love too much spice (I’ve been working my way up through the years) I can alter it to my taste level. Perfect dish for this time of year too! Thanks for the post!

  • Ele
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Nicole- You should try naan, it’s hardly baking at all! Because they’re grilled rather than baked, the whole thing feels really simple. You just watch for the top to brown, and they’re done!

  • Cath
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Yum, tried this myself on Friday following your post and can confirm it is lush…although didn’t have quite enough time to make my own naan as well though, maybe next time.

  • Ele
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Cath- Now you’ve reminded me of this, I’m craving it again! Maybe I’ll have to make some this week. I don’t have a squash but do have some pumpkin… maybe that would work.

  • Dana
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Ele, I made the naan last night. Incredibly delicious! I forgot that you said that you grilled it. I’m totally going to try that next time because yours looks so much more gorgeous than mine did. What a wonderful woman that Deborah Madison is!

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